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Troops Mobilizing in Zapatista Communities in Election Run-Up

by la jornada Friday, Aug. 18, 2000 at 3:01 PM

Autonomous Municipalities On Permanent State of Alert In North and Lacandona Paramilitaries Reveal They Will Attack Ejidal Town of La Revolucio'n In Tila

Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada


Translated by irlandesa

La Jornada

Wednesday, August 16, 2000.

Troops Mobilizing in Zapatista Communities in Election Run-Up

Autonomous Municipalities On Permanent State of Alert In North and Lacandona

Paramilitaries Reveal They Will Attack Ejidal Town of La Revolucio'n In Tila

Hermann Bellinghausen, correspondent.

San Cristo'bal de Las Casas, Chiapas.

August 15.

Everything appears ready for the final push. The broad paramilitary

offensive by armed bands, of what had been Peace and Justice - in Tila,

Yajalo'n and Palenque, as well the police and paramilitary attacks against

communities in Ocosingo, Altamirano and Chilo'n over the last few days - are

merely the forerunner of what the state government and the still-official

party want to put together for this weekend.

In contrast with what happened on July 2 - when the Army withdrew to its

barracks - during this election run-up, there has been a widespread

mobilization of troops and police forces in the zapatista communities and

in those in which the opposition Alliance for Chiapas has the majority.

Proliferating now are death threats, "land invasions" - at this very moment

(Tierra y Libertad - El Parai'so was the first of the many episodes which

are now taking place) - violent and arbitrary detentions of innocent

persons and the blocking of roads by armed paramilitaries, in uniforms and

frequently wearing ski-masks.

Those polling booths where the PRI did badly on July 2 have been erased

from the map. In the Selva of Ocosingo alone, 8 have "disappeared," as

have 3 in Chilo'n.

The Autonomous Municipalities of the Northern region and the Selva

Lacandona are on a permanent state of emergency. Along the same lines, the

ARIC-Independent, through its leader Porfirio Encino, denounced the gravity

of the situation: "They could kill people. Albores is going all out." In

response to the dozens of "spontaneous" conflicts which are arising - "so

they can justify there not being elections, or that they are held with

strong security operations in order to terrify the people" - the

ARIC-Independent is proposing these urgent demands: the reinstallation of

those polling places which have been eliminated, that the federal Army

remain in their barracks so that they cannot interfere in the elections,

and that the tension in the communities be relieved.

Various sources have confirmed the existence of a new network of satellite

telephones and radio bases which are connecting PRI communities throughout

the entire indigenous region of Chiapas to the 066 system in Tuxtla

Gutie'rrez, which is unofficially controlled by the federal Army, and which

is supposed to be for the civil service for emergencies. Simultaneously,

the rural telephone network has stopped functioning or is banned to the

public, which, if not resolved, will mean that indigenous areas will be

incommunicado to the outside this Sunday. The Alliance for Chiapas fears

that this circumstance will allow for all kinds of irregularities,

including violent ones, without there being any means of informing election

officials and civil observation bodies in time.

Paramilitary Volley

The ejidal center, La Revolucio'n, in the municipality of Tila, is at the

point of being attacked by armed civilians from Peace and Justice, who are

currently gathered in Pasija', in the neighboring municipality of Sabanilla.

Two different witnesses, one from Pasija' itself, and the other from Tila,

agree that the paramilitaries have revealed the manner in which they will

be attacking La Revolucio'n at any moment this week. That group does, in

fact, already control the roads and paths in the region. According to the

people, [the paramilitaries] have high-powered weapons, and they have

detained, beaten and threatened campesinos travelling there.

Yesterday, several dozen men dressed in green, in uniforms "similar to

military ones," were seen in the outskirts of Chancala'. They said they

were going to take over La Revolucio'n, "in order to dislocate those

zapatistas." There is fear of an "operation" similar to the one in El

Parai'so, under the currently fashionable pretext of "land disputes."

Agrarian conflicts: they also lead to war?

The Community Defenders of Human Rights Network reported that Peace and

Justice paramilitaries are gathering in different communities, to such a

degree that they are even creating problems with PRI families. Peaceful

PRIistas have expressed their dissent. In Roberto Barrios, one of them was

hung up by paramilitaries, but he managed to free himself and flee. Fear

is running down the spines of PRIs as well as zapatistas or Alliance for

Chiapas sympathizers (PRDs and, to a lesser degree, PANistas).

In Hidalgo, municipality of Palenque, there is another gathering of armed

paramilitaries. And the tension between PRIs in Roberto Barrios is such

that EZLN support bases in that community are "between two fires,"

according to their own testimony.

Differences between the two Peace and Justice groups led to an assembly, on

the 9th, in Arimatea. Campesinos from the 27 communities affiliated with

the organization, in order to review what their leaders had not delivered

for them, such as economic programs and aid programs, which have

disappeared before they have reached the people. Contrary to Sami David's

slogan: The people first.

In a similar vein, the ARIC-Independent is once again noting that PRI

authorities have unleashed a slander campaign against their opponents.

While PRI armed groups "are the ones who are stealing cattle, kidnapping

people, robbing stores, blocking roads and dislocating entire families,"

PRI bases are being told that it is the zapatistas and PRDs who are

carrying out those actions. Using the same procedures, the state

Department of Justice has already jailed campesinos from Union Progreso and

Yajalo'n. It is turning opponents into victims twice over.

The Alliance is demanding the reinstallation of those polling places

eliminated in Amador Herna'ndez, Pichucalco, Macedonia, Sacrificio la

Esperanza, Rio Florida, Campo Alegre, La Unio'n and Patate' Viejo (Ocosingo),

and in Muc'ulja', Chalamchem and Jotoaquil (Chilo'n). Also that rural

telephones be reinstalled, that the federal Army remain in their barracks

and an end to threats, attacks and imprisonments.

In Roberto Barrios, where there is a zapatista Aguascalientes, movements by

Peace and Justice are constant. A few nights ago, around 150 uniformed

paramilitaries went into the community at about 3 in the morning, and they

quickly hung up dozens of propaganda posters with Sami David David's


Threats, Jailings, Dislocations

The Community Defenders Network has denounced that there is open

persecution of human rights defenders from their organization, and many are

receiving death threats. Because of this, they have stopped giving their

names when making denunciations. There have been instances in which these

defenders have been held at military checkpoints, where they are harassed

and their credentials photographed, as evidence against them.

In the Luis Echeverri'a ejido, "Peace and Justice groups are provoking

problems in order to blame the communities in resistance," the Network

says. Military helicopters are making low overflights above the San Felipe

Tulija' ejido.

In Palestina, Modesto Herna'ndez Encino, who is in charge of Procampo, and

Mariano Di'az Arcos, have been pressuring PRIs against Alliance for Chiapas

people. The same atmosphere of fabricated violence exists in Arena Segunda

Ampliacio'n and in Santo Domingo.

The building of roads for military purposes has speeded up of late. Such

as the branches which go to Luis Echeverri'a Alvarez from Santa Mari'a,

Chancala' Zapote and Samaritano, "highways which do not benefit the

communities; they are to facilitate the entrance of the military and the

encirclement of the communities," according to the Network. Something

similar is taking place with the project which goes from Roberto Barrios to

Salto de Agua, and which passes in front of the Aguascalientes and

completes the military encirclement of the community.

Lastly - and while no one was detained for Peace and Justice's violent

attack against Tierra y Libertad in Yajalo'n following the intervention of

public security forces - on Friday, August 11, Ocosingo Public Security

police violently detained Isidro Entzi'n Pe'rez, 22, and Natalio Entzi'n

Pe'rez, 16, in the community of Jose' Mari'a Morelos and Pavo'n, in the 17 de

Noviembre Autonomous Municipality (Altamirano).

The fact that numerous PRI campesinos in Palenque and Ocosingo - ready to

cross to the side of change - have joined the PAN may have some bearing on

this dramatic unfolding of events. And, if this is happening in lands

where the PRI is still hoping to milk the "green vote," the fact that the

ruling party is so dangerously raising the political temperature can be


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